Do you have any of those games from a series you love, that you’ve tried playing many times but never made it that far into? Well Final Fantasy IX falls firmly into that category for me.
As a teenager, I never owned either a PlayStation or a copy of Final Fantasy IX. So I just had to play what I could while borrowing the game from friends and the console from my brother. I’ve since tried again to play it on PS3, PS4 and Vita, but never got further than the first disc.
So I was thrilled when Square Enix announced that Final Fantasy IX would be coming to Nintendo Switch. With my love of playing in handheld, I knew that this would be the right time to keep my momentum up and play to the end.
The version of Final Fantasy IX on Switch is based on the version that was ported to iOS and Android in 2016. This version had some graphical upgrades that the Switch version is able to benefit from. As a result, the cut scenes do look great for a game that was first released nearly 19 years ago.
I’m really impressed with the amount of improvement that’s gone into the cut scenes for this version of Final Fantasy IX. They look really gorgeous, even if it does make the rest look even more of its time! #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/DTDqlC6v87
— Will Fletcher (@WillFletchUK) February 23, 2019
There’s also been some work put into the character models. However, this does have an (unintended) effect. The juxtaposition of sharp character models against fuzzy backgrounds was a bit jarring at first, but thankfully I got used to it.
I’m so pleased that didn’t put me off. Because it meant I finally managed to properly get into a game that I know many hold as their favourite Final Fantasy title.
And it’s a game that I really enjoyed. I’m a big fan of turn-based RPGs and don’t understand why they’re so maligned. So I really enjoyed the battle system. And I found the ability system, through which abilities are learned by equipping specific weapons, armour and accessories, a nice way of doing things, and gave me an incentive to keep grinding my party for AP.
Once learned, abilities can be equipped at will, allowing you to change up your party’s strengths and weaknesses to suit the enemies you’re up against.
That’s not to say this was without its drawbacks. I found it quite frustrating that I couldn’t choose my party until relatively late in the game, and once I could I had a lot of under levelled characters. As someone who is always obsessed with trying to keep his whole roster around the same level, this was irritating, and meant I ended up just having to do loads of level grinding about halfway through.
Thanks to the portability of the Switch, this never felt like a chore in the same way it would with a pure home console. Playing while watching TV or even snatching short periods on my commute or lunch break makes it so much easier to grind for AP and EXP in any JRPG.
And of course, like any other Final Fantasy game, there’s a great story to keep you playing too. I did really enjoy following the adventures of Zidane, Garnett, Vivi et al. I found them at times moving, and loved the very tongue in cheek writing that never takes itself too seriously.
Towards the end, I did feel like the story went a bit too weird for my tastes. And that’s definitely going to stop me holding Final Fantasy IX with quite the same level of affection I have for VII, VIII and X.
But, for me to say that is not to say Final Fantasy IX isn’t a great game. It is. Playing it on Switch has been a reminder of how great Square were at their height in the PS1/PS2 era. It’s a really great JRPG, and one that I’m so pleased that I *finally* got around to playing in full.